Pender Street and Shanghai Alley

Pender & Shanghai

This 1917 Vancouver Public Library image shows a five year old building. It faces West Pender Street, with the narrow face of the building on Shanghai Alley (shown as Shanghai Street on the 1912 insurance map). It was designed by J G Price for Lun Yick Co, a Chinese-owned company controlled by Yip Chun Tien (more often called Yip Sang, who also ran the Wing Sang Company). Price also designed the West Hotel for the same client in the same year, and the two buildings looked very similar.

As it was built in 1912 it wasn’t, as you might expect, the first building on the site. Wing Sang had built a 2-storey building here earlier – we think it was in 1903, designed by ‘Mr. O’Keefe’. Michael O’Keefe wasn’t really an architect, he was mostly a builder, but he was willing to design buildings for Chinese owners to build themselves. He didn’t even live in Vancouver; the only likely M O’Keefe we’ve found was a carpenter, and later a builder, living in Victoria. We know he took the steamer to cross to Vancouver in the early 1900s. The tunnel in the centre of the building (the only real Chinatown tunnel!) led to an alley – Canton Alley – although the 1912 insurance map called it Canton Street. A series of buildings were built here by Wing Sang over nearly 10 years, costing over $150,000 with this $55,000 investment.

The seven storey apartment building didn’t last all that long. It was demolished in 1948, and the site stayed undeveloped for many years. In 1998 the CBA Manor and an adjacent building were built. As far as we can tell they were designed by Joe Wai and Davidson Yuen Simpson. There is a 4-storey social services centre run by SUCCESS, and a commercial and residential building on seven floors.

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Posted September 8, 2014 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, East End, Gone

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